The Tibetan Book of the Dead (8th century), translated by Gyurme Dorje

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Buddha statue. Photograph: Getty

Buddha statue. Photograph: Getty

Where should we turn when confronting the question of what it means to die: to our own culture, which encourages denial and panic, or to a culture such as that of Buddhist Tibet, in which life was a long and careful preparation for death?

The high priests of scientific materialism assure us that all talk of consciousness continuing after physical death is for children, but the troubling visions presented in The Tibetan Book of the Dead make annihilation seem like the fairytale.

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